The Fax Of Life
A box office loser gets promoted to cult classic. We're gonna need you to go ahead and rent Office Space, m'kay?
Have you ever wanted to punch your idiot boss in the face? Have you fought the urge to drop-kick a printer that’s just sitting there, smirking ”PC Load Letter, PC Load Letter,” out the window? Have you felt bullied into chipping in five hard-earned bucks toward your drip coworker’s birthday present? If you’ve ever seen Office Space, you know you are not alone.
The freaks can have their Rocky Horror Picture Show. The geeks can get off on Spinal Tap. But we office drones depend on Mike Judge’s 1999 cubicle comedy to carry us through the pay cycle.
In the four years since the movie’s release, Office Space, a glorious send-up of 9-to-5 absurdities and humiliations, has evolved into a stealth blockbuster. The movie — starring average-Joe actor Ron Livingston and not-so-average-Jane superstar Jennifer Aniston — has sold more than 2.6 million copies on VHS and DVD and has become a most unlikely cult classic. And, more important, it ruined Michael Bolton’s life. (The balladeer is memorably dismissed as a ”no-talent ass clown.”) ”They had to make that f — -ing movie!” Bolton complained to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. ”I was doing fine. Then they made this movie, and I can’t go anywhere!”
And to think that Office Space initially seemed like a disaster. Remembers Judge: ”There was a while there where I just thought, ‘Man, I made the hugest turd of a movie.”’
If there were ever an ideal place to while away a workday, it’d have to be Mike Judge’s Austin office space. In place of time sheets and Styrofoam coffee cups are a pool table, a pile of guitars, and a pale pink sofa autographed by Cher. But even in this dream den of teenage cool, Judge, 40, looks miserable.
”Oh, God, this is awful,” he says, chuckling. ”It just brings back all these horrible memories.” The Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill creator’s live-action debut flopped hard at the box office, barely recouping its $10 million budget. Hurt by weak buzz and mixed reviews, Office Space was a blip on the big screen. Reliving the experience stresses him out, but the dude’s got a pool table, and probably breaks for margaritas at four. He can handle it.
Judge never really wanted to make the movie, based on his animated Saturday Night Live shorts about an oily automaton named Milton and his suspender-slick boss, but his producers and Twentieth Century Fox talked him into it. Flush from the success of There’s Something About Mary, the studio was pushing for another big, broad comedy.
”My God,” remembers Judge, ”when we were watching the dailies, the execs were like, ‘More energy! More energy! We gotta reshoot it! You’re failing! You’re failing!”’ His gangsta-rap soundtrack gave Fox heart palpitations until a focus group voted pro-hardcore. And he hated his ending. ”Coming out of the last test screening I had an epiphany of what the ending should be,” he remembers. ”A complete rewrite of the third act. You could feel how it should have ended. So that was kind of a bummer.”